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Can’t touch this: a guide on what not to touch at the airport

Once ridiculed, wiping down your plane seat is now de rigueur. We know not to touch an unsanitised hotel remote or drink from a hotel’s glasses before having given them a good clean yourself. But there’s another part of the travel journey that needs addressing: the airport.


An airport is the nexus of the world. And the point at which all the germs we carry with us meet. 



Since COVID-19 hit, airports, like hotels, cruises and airlines have all likely updated their cleaning protocols, but there are still places best avoided research, published in the BMC Infectious Diseases Journal, found.


The research saw the collection and PCR testing of surface and air samples at Finland Airport. 


Check in kiosks

You know how grubby your phone screen is? Now multiply that by all the people who checked in before you. You can’t really avoid touching this one, so sanitise those hands both prior and after touching one. 


The security carry-on trays

Unless you travelling with zero carry on (an impossibility considering you’re likely to have extra masks, wipes and sanitiser for your flight), you’ll have to touch these ones too. But, half of the trays swabbed carried traces of a respiratory virus.


“We found the highest frequency of respiratory viruses on plastic trays used in security check areas for depositing hand-carried luggage and personal items,” the study’s authors wrote, noting that viruses tend to survive longer on non-porous plastic surfaces.


Passport control windows

We’re so used to the plexiglass that separates us from those serving us. We’re also just human so sometimes we forget and touch the stuff. Best not to, as researchers found them to be working so well at protecting us from each other’s germs that they themselves are covered in them.


Play areas

When your kids have been or will be locked up for hours on a plane, a play ground is a great way to burn off some of that boundless energy they seem to have, but researchers who swabbed airport play equipment found the pieces crawling with traces of respiratory viruses.


Bubbler buttons

A study commissioned by, found that buttons on a bubbler were among the filthiest spots in the entire airport, home to an average of 19,181 viable bacteria and fungal cells per square inch, News Corp reported. By comparison, most household toilet seats have an average of 172 of the scary sounding colony forming units (CFU).


Arm rests

You may not want to fight over the arm rests of the gate lounge seats. The data revealed an average of 21,630 CFU on chair armrests in boarding areas at gates.

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Published: 18 January 2022

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